Unit 5: Atomic and Nuclear Physics
Although the success of Newtonian determinism is as clear as any scientific paradigm in the history of our planet (for example, just think about all the machines you use in any one day...cars and elevators etc.), it turns out that the ideas of Isaac Newton were not able to explain the results of certain important experiments conducted in the late 1800's and early 1900's. For example, the atomic spectra (seen above) of a hydrogen discharge tube viewed through a diffraction grating is not explainable using classical physics. In this unit we will study the "quantum" nature of the subatomic realm, which does allow us to understand these phenomena, and see that we might need to re-examine the very nature of our world in light of what science has shown us about the smallest parts of the universe.
Suggested timeframe: 4 weeks
1. Light has both a wave-like and a particle-like nature.
2. Energy is quantized.
3. The nucleus can change due to internal forces or by collisions.
4. Energy and mass are equivalent.